Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Constitutional Action

Overview

It’s easy to forget how important the jury really is to America. The right to be a juror is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all eligible citizens. The right to trial by jury helped spark the American Revolution, was quickly adopted at the Constitutional Convention, and is the only right that appears in both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But for most of us, a jury summons is an unwelcome inconvenience. Who has time for jury duty? We have things to do.

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Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Constitutional Action

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Overview

It’s easy to forget how important the jury really is to America. The right to be a juror is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all eligible citizens. The right to trial by jury helped spark the American Revolution, was quickly adopted at the Constitutional Convention, and is the only right that appears in both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But for most of us, a jury summons is an unwelcome inconvenience. Who has time for jury duty? We have things to do.

In Why Jury Duty Matters, Andrew Guthrie Ferguson reminds us that whether we like it or not, we are all constitutional actors. Jury duty provides an opportunity to reflect on that constitutional responsibility. Combining American history, constitutional law, and personal experience, the book engages citizens in the deeper meaning of jury service. Interweaving constitutional principles into the actual jury experience, this book is a handbook for those Americans who want to enrich the jury experience. It seeks to reconnect ordinary citizens to the constitutional character of a nation by focusing on the important, and largely ignored, democratic lessons of the jury.

Jury duty is a shared American tradition. It connects people across class and race, creates habits of focus and purpose, and teaches values of participation, equality, and deliberation. We know that juries are important for courts, but we don’t know that jury service is important for democracy. This book inspires us to re-examine the jury experience and act on the constitutional principles that guide our country before, during, and after jury service.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jury duty is a phrase sure to elicit eye rolls and groans from those summoned to service. Still, it remains one of our most important roles to fulfill as citizens and a right that people have valued since the middle ages. Ferguson, a veteran lawyer and law professor, outlines the importance of the jury in the legal system, how the right to trial by jury helped push the American Revolution forward, and how civil rights advances that created a more balanced jury pool have resulted in fairer trials for all. The subject of jury duty is a dry one and while Ferguson does his best to elevate the topic, he can't make it a compelling one unless the reader is already actively interested in the jury portion of the legal process. While the book is definitely written for laypeople in terms of prose style, it requires an enthusiastic ear. Though this book will lose the attention of most readers, the dedicated and wonk-minded will learn a great deal about our legal system.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
An investigation and celebration of what we so often rue: jury duty. Former public defender Ferguson (Law/Univ. of the District of Columbia) takes jury duty seriously but not in an admonitory, finger-wagging sense. He wants readers to appreciate the brilliance of the jury process as civic engagement, an act of public virtue, due process and accountability. Ferguson witnesses the process daily, and he serves it forth here to readers with enthusiasm: "I watch as constitutional ideals such as civic participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, liberty, accountability, freedom of conscience, and the common good come alive through the practice of ordinary citizens." In each chapter, the author takes a constitutionally grounded principal and shows how it applies to jury duty. Jury participation teaches the skills required for democratic self-governance, it acquaints jurors with the rule of law and it promotes the equality of ideas. Ferguson is an artful booster for community involvement and social connection and an advocate for the ability to challenge any perceived infringement of rights; a copy of the Constitution is always ready at his hand. This is a book that makes you feel good about a system that requires this type of participation, in which we must reflect with clarity on the guilt or innocence of an individual. A genuine encouragement that speaks to the role juries play in our constitutional structure.
From the Publisher

"This book will help us all move beyond feeling jury service is solely a duty. These well-written pages clearly demonstrate jury service is a privilege and that a jury summons is an admission ticket to very special higher learning. The book should inspire important citizen reflections both at the courthouse and at our kitchen tables."-Judge Gregory E. Mize,Judicial Fellow, National Center for State Courts

"Every year thousands of American citizens are summoned for the important civic duty of serving on a jury. What is their role, why is it a duty, and why is it so important? This unique and highly readable book is addressed to a lay audience. It will be useful for those citizens who have served on juries, for those who will someday be called to serve, and, indeed, for anyone who has an inquisitive mind about a crucial part of our legal system. Author Andrew Guthrie Ferguson lucidly describes the history of the jury and explains why juries play such a critical role in the contemporary American system of justice. Copies should be placed in the jury assembly rooms of every courthouse. The book can also be a useful supplement for high school civics courses."-Neil Vidmar,Russell M. Robinson II Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law

"Andrew Ferguson has written an inspiring book–addressed to every American–to explain why serving as a juror is vital to our democracy. He masterfully weaves the jury process with constitutional principles showing how the jury puts these principles into everyday practice. Ferguson’s book will transform readers from reluctant citizens into responsible jurors. Every court should give prospective jurors a copy of this book so that they will understand the jury’s integral role in our democracy."-Nancy S. Marder,Professor of Law and Director of the Jury Center, Chicago-Kent College of Law

"An investigation and celebration of what we so often rue: jury duty.

Former public defender Ferguson (Law/Univ. of the District of Columbia) takes jury duty seriously but not in an admonitory, finger-wagging sense. He wants readers to appreciate the brilliance of the jury process as civic engagement, an act of public virtue, due process and accountability. Ferguson witnesses the process daily, and he serves it forth here to readers with enthusiasm: “I watch as constitutional ideals such as civic participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, liberty, accountability, freedom of conscience, and the common good come alive through the practice of ordinary citizens.” In each chapter, the author takes a constitutionally grounded principal and shows how it applies to jury duty. Jury participation teaches the skills required for democratic self-governance, it acquaints jurors with the rule of law and it promotes the equality of ideas. Ferguson is an artful booster for community involvement and social connection and an advocate for the ability to challenge any perceived infringement of rights; a copy of the Constitution is always ready at his hand. This is a book that makes you feel good about a system that requires this type of participation, in which we must reflect with clarity on the guilt or innocence of an individual.

A genuine encouragement that speaks to the role juries play in our constitutional structure."

-Kirkus Reviews,

"Ferguson, a veteran lawyer and law professor, outlines the importance of the jury in the legal system, how the right to trial by jury helped push the American Revolution forward, and how civil rights advances that created a more balanced jury pool have resulted in fairer trials for all...the dedicated and wonk-minded will learn a great deal about our legal system."-Publishers Weekly,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814729038
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 12/17/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 413,659
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Andrew Guthrie Ferguson is Professor of Law at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia. He is co-author of Youth Justice in America.
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Table of Contents

1 An Invitation to Participation
2 Selecting Fairness
3 Choosing Equality
4 Connecting to the Common Good
5 Living Liberty
6 Deciding Through Deliberation
7 Protecting a Dissenting Voice
8 Judging Accountability

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